I'm writing to reply to a letter concerning my brief 1990 visit with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (Images and Action, Oct. 23).
Images and action
In spring 1990, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I and four other U.S. senators were on a tour of Mideast nations attempting to gauge the possibilities for Mideast peace. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak urged us to change our plans and meet with Hussein in Iraq.
The next day we flew to Baghdad for our meeting. After a series of complications, we eventually spoke with Hussein. After we questioned him on his human rights abuses during Iraq's war with Iran, Hussein abruptly walked out and canceled our meeting. In that conflict, Iraq had used both chemical an biological weapons against both Iran and his own Kurdish minority.
We returned from Iraq quite convinced of Hussein's dangerous unpredictability. While it is true that I did not support imposing economic sanctions against Iraq in late spring 1990 - four months before Hussein's surprise invasion of Kuwait - it is not fair to say I ever gave Saddam Hussein "aid."
By 1990, the United States was already dangerously dependent on foreign sources for our energy needs. Given that dependence, and our then even more frosty relations with Iran, it was difficult to support ending all oil imports. Since Hussein's true intent became clear, I've led efforts to try and stop the U.S from importing Iraqi oil, regardless of the economic cost. My amendment to halt any imports of Iraqi oil (now down to about 300,000 from 1.1 million barrels a day) is still pending before Congress. I've clearly stated by belief that military action will be necessary if Saddam does not readmit UN weapons inspectors and fully disarms his arsenal of biological, chemical and potentially other means of causing mass destruction.
I have led efforts against Iraq in the U.S. Senate. There are no reasonable grounds for anyone to question my philosophical commitment to deal forcefully with Hussein and resolve our over-dependence on foreign sources of oil.
Frank H. Murkowski